This is a good example of sitting down to write even when you haven’t the faintest idea what you’re going to write about. Chuck Wendig‘s challenge this week was to use a random title generator to get five titles, and write 1000 words for one of them. For once I got five titles that gave me vague ideas. I kept humming and hawing and wondering what to do for them, and which one. Finally I just sat down with a first line for the Uncommon Cinderella and it really did grow as I wrote it.
It’s at least YA, full of bad language and bad accents, and set in seedy holiday resorts. Not that Caister, Lowestoft and Cromer are seedy, in fact Cromer is a great holiday place. They all are. They’re not Cannes, though.
The Uncommon Cinderella
“’ere! Wot ‘dya fink yer doin’?”
“Keep yer ‘air on Ella, I won’ be long.”
Ella tried to stop him making off with her second best guitar, the one she always walked on stage with, but he’d gone. Now what? Her set started in ten minutes.
She looked at the flyblown mirror in the glare of ten incandescent lightbulbs. Six were dark, leaving gaps like missing teeth in a Victorian melodrama. You couldn’t get them any more, and compact fluorescents were useless. Caister Odeon today, Lowestoft pier tomorrow, maybe if she was lucky she’d end up at Southend, in the big time.
Make-up, check. Nothing had run in the rain that was driving in from the North Sea. Good chance of a fair audience, then. As long as nobody threw anything at her that hurt. The grannies would demand their money back. Pensioners’ rates, she wouldn’t miss it much.
Costume, check. She always dressed in her campervan. Strode across in the black, tight-laced corset and matching platform-soled thigh boots. A bit of gauze for the skirt, draping like cobwebs, and a good spider’s web drawn on her right temple. The high-collared cape with the lavender lining had come from a vampire show in Vienna. He was lovely, the actor that wore it, but she didn’t indulge a smile, the white facepaint might crack.
She tapped some powder into her cold coffee and drank it down. She counted the contents of her cigarette packet. If she had one now, she’d be gasping before she got paid. Maybe she could get one off that thievin’ injin that had nicked her guitar. Where had he gone with it anyway? She lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply. She hummed a few notes and decided to sing a few properly, like her music teacher had always told her. “Warm up before a concert, Isabella, you have to look after your vocal chords. Whatever you’re singing.” He’d said she had a nice voice. New Sounds called it “sandpaper scraped across an out of tune violin”.
The tannoy gave a burst of noise from the stage then cut out again. Sounded like the dogs were halfway through their walking on hind legs routine. She went to stub out the cigarette, then carefully nipped the end off, checked it wasn’t still alight, and put the rest back in the packet. What was she going to carry on stage? She couldn’t go on empty handed.
“Witchy Woman, your three minute call!” came over the tannoy. Nice of them to remember. She paced the room, looking for another musical instrument. Didn’t they have a spare somewhere? Maybe it was in the van.
“Witchy Woman, stand by!”
Stand by??? What about three minutes? She picked up the nearest thing she could see and went up to the wings. The audience laughter echoed down the stairs as she climbed up. Sounded like the show was going well.
Harry the Dog Man pushed past her in tears, carrying his Chihuahua. Maybe it wasn’t going well. Where were the other two? She stood by the Stage Manager’s desk and looked along the front of the curtain.
“You’d better not come too close to the front,” the SM said as she waved frantically at someone up in the flies.
“Why not?” Ella croaked.
“Dog pee. Go!”
Ella walked onto her set, avoiding the backdrop which was on its way down, and pulling the keyboard out of its way. Three shows this week, and they’d missed its mark every time. Amateurs! She’d just fixed it when the stage lights went off, the curtain opened and her intro music blared out. Thank god for MP3.
She pulled up her instrument and started. “Rock-a baby Mamma, you gonna hit the spots…”
It was the song everybody knew her for, the one hit she’d had ten years ago with her group. Even though she was playing a broom, the front row got to their feet and sang along. Well, yelled along, with the alternative words. She grinned at them, played along, leered at the guys, showed the women a long black tongue to match her eye makeup, and licked her lips provocatively at anyone who looked remotely shocked.
“’allo, Caister!” she cried at the end of the number. Unusually, there was a semi-response to the opening. The norm was deaf ears. Or sleeping ones. Or ones that were far too busy having it off in the dark. Or just getting it off.
“Are we havin’ fun yet?” She hated this bit of nonsense with the audience. Eff ‘em. They were only here to get out of the rain for God’s sake.
“Yeah, well, I don’t care if yer are! I’m jus’ here fer the music,” and she went into another number, linked with two more, to take her through half of her set. The best description of her later work was Grunge-based rock overlaid with punk. She laid it on thick. People didn’t care and neither did she, as long as she got paid before she left.
The show ended and she went back to the campervan. He was sitting there, strumming her second best guitar.
“Wot the effin’ h are yer doin’ wi’ that!” she croaked at him, sitting on the table and unlacing her boots.
“Well, yer don’ need it!”
“The eff I don’t. I’m a musician ‘n’ that’s mine.”
“There woz ‘n agen’ in there, I got ‘im ter stop in. ‘e’s goin’ ter Cromer t’night.”
“Wossat ter me?”
“’e liked wot ‘e saw. Said if yer shoes’re big enuff, ‘e’s gorra gig fer yer.”
“Oh, yeah. Cappin’ funny ha-ha.”
There was a knock at the van’s insubstantial door.
“’ere ‘e is.” He opened the door to a smartly dressed hunk, who ducked his head and climbed in.
“You can leave now, mate,” the stranger said, and the guitar player squeezed out. “You don’t need that.” He saved the guitar from the rain, and shut the van door on him.
He sat on the bench. Ella sat on the table, one boot off, the other half unlaced, ankle across her other knee.
“Nice view. Haven’t seen it for a long time. Fancy coming back to the big time?”
“Frankie!” Ella said, and slipped off the table onto his lap, like she’d never been away.